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Governor picks appeals court judge for Kansas Supreme Court

November 30, 2020 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday appointed state Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court, despite the objections of the state’s most influential anti-abortion group.

“As governor, the process of appointing justices to the Kansas Supreme Court is one I take very seriously,” Kelly said in a news release. “Not only must justices have knowledge of the law, but also a complex and nuanced understanding of the world and the people the law is intended to govern.”

This was Kelly’s third appointment to the seven-member court in less than two years in office. Under the state constitution, her choice is not subject to review by the Republican-controlled Legislature, a sore point for some conservative lawmakers. Governors have had to win Senate confirmation since 2013 for nominees to the state’s second-highest court, the Court of Appeals.

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Standridge will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Carol Beier.

Anti-abortion group Kansans for Life opposed Standridge’s appointment because she sided in a 2016 ruling with other judges who said the state constitution protects abortion rights. The appeals court split 7-7, and the Kansas Supreme Court ruled last year that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.

Standridge has been a judge on the Court of Appeals since 2008 and has authored nearly 1,000 opinions. Before that she served as chambers counsel to U.S. District Magistrate Judge David Waxse from 1999 to 2008.

Her experience also includes a stint working as an associate attorney for Shook, Hardy, and Bacon, where she was a founding member of the firm’s award-winning diversity and inclusion initiative.

“The totality of her life and career experience makes her preeminently qualified to sit on the Kansas Supreme Court,” Kelly said.

Kelly said Standridge has gathered “a wealth of legal expertise that makes her more than prepared to join the Supreme Court.” But the governor also cited Standridge’s firsthand experience navigating the system both as a judge and foster parent to numerous youngsters.

Standridge said that to serve on the state’s highest court is “the honor of the lifetime,” but she doesn’t view it as just a capstone to her career. She said the Supreme Court justices have difficult jobs.

“But I believe that my years as a judge on the Court of Appeals, my extensive experience working with judges and lawyers from across our state, and my broad life experiences outside the law have prepared me for this challenge,” she said.